French judges end inquiry into Arafat's 2004 death
NANTERRE, France - French judges re-examining the evidence surrounding the 2004 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have concluded their investigations, the prosecutor’s office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre said Tuesday.
"The judges have closed their dossier and it was sent to the prosecutor on April 30," he said.
The prosecutor now has three months to prepare his submissions on whether to dismiss the case or put it forward to court.
In the meantime, interested parties can produce written depositions. However if, as is currently the case, there is no defendant's name attached to the proceedings, the case is likely to be dismissed.
Arafat died aged 75 on 11 November 2004, at the Percy de Clamart hospital, close to Paris. He had been admitted there at the end of October that year after developing stomach pains while at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he had lived since December 2001, surrounded by the Israeli army.
Arafat's widow Suha lodged a complaint at a court in Nanterre in 2012, claiming that her husband was assassinated, sparking the inquiry.
The same year, Arafat's tomb in Ramallah was opened for a few hours allowing three teams of French, Swiss and Russian investigators to collect around 60 samples.
Many Palestinians believe that the Israelis poisoned Arafat with the complicity of some people in his entourage.
A centre in the Swiss city of Lausanne had tested biological samples taken from Arafat's personal belongings given to his widow after his death in Paris, and found "abnormal levels of polonium", but stopped short of saying that he had been poisoned by the extremely radioactive toxin.
However French experts "maintain that the polonium-210 and lead-210 found in Arafat's grave and in the samples are of an environmental nature", Nanterre prosecutor Catherine Denis said last month.
Polonium-210 became famous in 2006 when a fugitive Russian intelligence officer turned opponent of President Vladimir Putin, Alexander Litvinenko, was killed in London by a strong dose of the hard-to-get radioactive isotope. Two Russian agents were the chief suspects for British police, but Moscow refused their extradition.
The lawyer of Arafat's widow Suha Arafat could not be immediately contacted for comment.